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2019-05-24 12:15:40   •   ID: 2104

The Late Middle Paleolithic of the Aisne Valley

Figure 1
This is an unusual large (9 cm long) quadrangular Levallois flake from Pont Arcy in the Aisne Valley, most probably made by the “preferential” or “linear” Levallois technique.

It is characterized by multiple small continuous abrupt ("Ouchtata-like") retouches over its entire circumference.

The dorsal edges are damaged, most probably by post-depositional processes, creating a "Pseudo-Truncation" on the distal part. It does not look like a facetted truncated piece or "Kostenki edge".

This artifact was found by a Parisian collector, during the years 1905-1910 at the Aisne and remains without any contextual information, like most of the Paleolithic findings in this area.

Figure 2
The river Aisne belongs to the drainage basin of the river Seine in northern France. It rises in the forest of Argonne, at Rembercourt-Sommaisne, near Sainte-Menehould. It flows north and then west before joining the Oise near Compiègne.

A quarter of this distance the river flows through the rolling chalk landscape of Champagne. For the remaining distance the valley cuts through Tertiary limestone plateau, forming a flat-bottomed corridor with steep sides.

The valley floor is covered by gravel terraces with loam on top. A Pleistocene loess cover is almost non-existent, contrary to what is observed in other valleys of the northern part of the Paris Basin, that of the Somme in particular.

The Paleolithic of the Aisne Valley is well known but remains for its larger parts virtually undated and from secondary context. It is often highlighted in Museums like the Metropolitan Museum (see attached link)- but more as an example of excellent workmanship or even early art, than for its scientific value see here 1221 , here 1430 , here: 1230 , and here 1424 .

In particular, abundant Acheulian findings with magnificent bifaces have found during the 19th/early 20th century. They perfectly are comparable to those of the late Acheulian of the Somme.

The same holds through for the non-dated Middle Paleolithic. Therefore, the Middle Paleolithic Levallois in-situ findings at Courmelles, attesting an occupation on a plateau site, dated to MIS 5a are one of the rare exceptions from the rule of secondary contexts at the Aisne.

Most artifacts are made from Quartzite, but the use of homogeneous flint, if available, was not uncommon, especially during the Middle Paleolithic.

Small scatters of Large Levallois Flakes without or with retouches are not rare in nearby parts of N- France and usually belong to MIS 4/3 boundary. They have been interpreted as the remains of short-term hunting camps.

The site of Havrincourt, excavated during the construction of the Canal Seine-North Europe revealed "eight Levallois flakes, four of which are extremely large, in primary position. They are contained in brown silt correlated to the end of the Lower Pleniglacial or to the very beginning of the Middle Weichselian Pleniglacial.

These flakes are standardized and reflect the interest in creating a specific shape and size. They were produced outside the excavated zone (2,000 m2) and used on site (or in the immediate vicinity of the site), as shown by the use-wear study and the faunal remains.

The neighbouring site of Hermies “le Tio Marché” revealed the presence of similar flakes. The preferential Levallois flakes could have been mislaid or deliberately discarded at the site
(Goval et al. 2015).

Several researchers have noted that the repeated use of a Preferential Levallois technique during MIS 5 and 3 for the production of large thin flakes was one successful technological choice of Neanderthals in the creation of standardized debitage during the late Middle Paleolithic in N- France